Christmas can't be too far away when the eggnog bottle and the white, green and red cow wearing a wreath go up on the Coburg sign on Savannah Highway.
For about the past 14 years, Charles Roberts, vice president of Roberts and Sons Signs, has brought Christmas to the Charleston landmark.
"Yes, I know a lot of people pay attention to it," Roberts, 32, said.
He knows because a lot of motorists blow their horns, wave and yell out the window when they see him hauling the holiday cow and eggnog bottle by crane to its rotating platform.
Though the job makes passers-by smile, putting a 100-pound cow and about a 150-pound bottle on a platform about 8 feet above the ground is serious business. Roberts said he's usually so focused on completing the job safely and traffic moves so quickly that he doesn't pay attention to who's waving or what people are yelling. He just knows it's all friendly.
"I like it. Everybody likes the cow," he said.
The sign company has been linked to the Coburg Cow since 1959, when it designed and installed the three-dimensional model on Savannah Highway. The company's Web site, www.robsignco.com, even has a special link called "About The Cow" with a timeline of important bovine moments.
Roberts started working summers at the business at 3915 Savannah Highway on Johns Island when he was 14. It's a family business with his father, Fran, and brothers David and Darius.
Roberts started by cleaning the shop, but each year, he'd learn a little more. He graduated from St. Paul's Country Day School in Hollywood in 1994. That's when he took on the Coburg Cow duty.
Another company manufactures the cows, but Roberts has had to repair and repaint the cow, dubbed Bessie, after vandals defaced it. The company also designed and built the chocolate milk bottle that replaced the old chocolate milk carton. It took two people to lift the finished product, he said.
This year, Christmas Bessie and the eggnog went up earlier than usual, by the end of October, because eggnog was in the stores earlier, Roberts said. The sign company didn't have time to build the bottle from the ground up, but Roberts said they did all the painting and graphics on the eggnog bottle.
Roberts also swaps out the cow that stands on top of the Coburg Dairy building on Lacross Road in North Charleston.
Motorists probably will see Roberts back on Savannah Highway the first week of January, when he'll use the crane to remove Christmas Bessie and the eggnog bottle, and put brown-and-white Bessie and the chocolate milk bottle back in place.
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